by Ilana Kurshan

Pretty Crazy

Laboring to be Beautiful

“Life is too interesting to focus on my hips,” an older friend once told me, and I remember wishing that I could agree. In The Beauty Bias (Oxford, $17.95) Deborah L. Rhode laments that much of the effort and concern that individuals now invest in their appearance could be better spent, and that the consequences of our cultural preoccupation with appearance require legal redress. Rhode, a law professor at Stanford, begins with a personal account of her own “ludicrous experience” of having her wardrobe vetted by the American Bar Association so as to select a suitable outfit for her to wear to the organization’s annual luncheon. The irony was not lost on Rhode, who was chair of a commission seeking to promote equality for women in the profession. This experience sensitized her to the double standard of attractiveness for men and women, and to the reality of living in a world in which “shoe design may be the last politically acceptable haven for closet misogynists.”

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